How to Start Working Out
When was the last time you did squats? High school PE class?
Or maybe you tried running a few months ago but lost your motivation?
No matter how far you are now from your desired fitness level…
It just takes one second to decide you’re worth it, 10 minutes for your first workout, and 2 weeks to feel a difference.
Everything you need to successfully start and maintain your workout routine is summed up in this helpful guide:
- Exercise 101: What you need to know before you start
- Tips to get started with exercise
- Extra tips for beginners
- Workouts & training plans
Exercise 101: What you need to know before you start
Benefits of exercise (well-known & less known)
Almost everyone knows exercise improves your health. However, a lot of people aren’t aware of all the benefits of exercise.
Top benefits you can look forward to when you start working out:
- Reduced risk of chronic disease(1)
- Better mood & mental health(2, 3)
- Balanced energy levels throughout the day & better sleep
- Slowing of the aging process(4)
- A boost to brain health(5)
- Positive effect on the microbiome(6)
- A boost to sex life
How much exercise is recommended weekly for health benefits?
The general exercise recommendation is:
- Cardio (minimum amount of activity): At least 150 minutes of moderate cardio throughout the week. It can be replaced with at least 75 minutes of intense cardio throughout the week or a combination of both.
- Strength training (highly recommended): Exercises involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
- For extra health benefits: Minimum cardio should be increased by an additional 300 minutes per week (moderate) or 150 minutes of (intense) cardio per week (or a combination of both).(7)
While it may sound like a lot, the good thing is that you can adjust this to your schedule. As long as the cardio activities are performed for at least 10 minutes, you can divide your active minutes into as many workout sessions you like per week. Whether you do strength or cardio first depends on your goal.
Types of exercise
What are some common types of exercise?
- Cardio: Anything that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe faster can be considered cardio. However, it usually refers to activities aimed at improving your endurance and stamina such as:
- Moderate cardio: Brisk walking, dancing, jogging, cycling, swimming…
- Intense cardio: Running, fast cycling, brisk walk up a hill, swimming laps…(8)
- Strength training: Any type of activity that uses resistance to build muscular strength. Using your own bodyweight as resistance has many benefits!
- Flexibility & mobility training: Exercises focused on maintaining and improving passive range of motion (flexibility) and active range of motion during movement (mobility).
- HIIT: HIIT or high-intensity interval training consists of intense bursts of exercise (strength or cardio) followed by rest intervals, aimed at keeping your heart rate elevated. Find out more about the difference between low-intensity, steady-state cardio, and HIIT cardio.
What is the best type of exercise to lose weight?
Any type of exercise that requires high effort (for you) will have similar effect – especially for beginners.(9) So the truth is, it doesn’t really matter! Find activities that you enjoy and can imagine doing for more than just a month or two. In the end, weight loss is about calorie deficit. So make sure to adjust your nutrition for best results.
Tips to get started with exercise
First step: reach the fitness level where you don’t feel like you “hate exercise” anymore. Here’s how to do it…
Choose your inspiration & set a goal
How many times have you decided to lose 5 kg and then failed? Take a different approach and decide what you want to get good at first. Think of what you want to be able to do – whether it’s running 30 minutes non-stop or crossing that marathon off your bucket list, getting into better shape so you are more energized and productive at work or keeping up with your kids as you get older. Find your inspiration and then set yourself long-term and short-term goals.
The following video will give you an in-depth motivational introduction on how to set the right goals for your fitness journey:
Start small & track your progress
Starting small means focusing on short term goals first.
Focus on one week at a time. Get in your workout for the day. Then complete the next workout. Make it a challenge to find that 15-45 minutes in your day, as often as possible, to just get more active.
Once the first week is finished, look back and take it a step further – aim for one more workout or just 5 additional minutes of running in the next week.
Establishing a workout routine and sticking to it is more important than the duration & type of workouts you are doing. On days when you really have no time, even short 7-10 minute workouts can provide health benefits, especially for beginners.
It takes time to see results. That’s why you need a tracking system that will show you how you improve day by day and motivate you when you are not feeling it. The Runtastic app and the Results app can support you on your fitness journey – from the first workout to your yearly running goal. Be proud of every active minute that you add to your schedule!
Expect setbacks & have a plan b
Skipping a workout or getting a cold shouldn’t throw you off your game. Everyone experiences setbacks. Often even after the first 2-3 weeks.
The goal is not to be perfect, but to get better with time. The important thing is that you don’t give up. Just like you don’t quit school because of a bad grade or don’t quit your job when you face a challenge.
Here are some options for what to do when you experience a setback:
- Planned a workout but suddenly feel like you have no energy at all? If you already feel exhausted in the morning, take a break from exercising and really focus on what you eat during this rest day to improve your nutrition. If you start feeling too tired later in the afternoon, take a walk to relax and get some movement in your day.
- Feeling stressed or lost motivation for your workout plan? It’s normal to get overwhelmed. Skip a day and focus on getting enough quality sleep.
- Skipped a couple of days and now you feel bad? Think about what caused this – was it a cheat meal, a tough day, or just a packed schedule? Learn something from it, because it will happen again. Prepare yourself to continue where you left off. Every setback can bring new insights and motivation if you are ready to look deeper 😉
Extra tips for beginners
Check your health
It’s always good to get advice from your doctor or physical therapist before making big changes to your lifestyle, such as starting a new workout routine – especially if you are over 45, suffer from any chronic illness, or had injuries in the past.
Don’t exhaust yourself right away
No pain, no gain? Should you really be pushing yourself as a beginner? Yes, but only for the sake of consistency.
How long does it take for your body to get used to working out?
It depends on how long it’s been since the last time you were in shape… but don’t be discouraged by sore muscles. A common saying is that “it takes 2 weeks to feel a change, 4 weeks to see a change, and 8 weeks for other to notice it, too.”
Push yourself to be more active, but don’t do an exercise when you are in pain. The real battle is in your head, and it’s about getting through the first months. Once you make it a habit and learn how to perform all the exercises, it’s time to push yourself even harder in your workouts.
Think about your form
Avoid injury and get better results by learning from common exercise mistakes. When you start out, it might feel overwhelming to consider so many tips on form. Focus on getting better in one exercise every couple of days, not all at once. And if you don’t feel ready to perform a certain exercise – don’t force it. There are always other options and ways to replace exercises with easier variations. Do what you can with good form and be patient: strength & endurance come with consistency!
Workouts & training plans
Interval runs, slow runs, HIIT training, Tabata workouts, yoga… there are so many workouts you can do without equipment:
Many people discover their love for running later in life, so it’s always worth giving it another try. Prepare yourself for these challenges that await beginner runners and don’t make the most common runner’s mistake. Here are a few examples of training plans that might be useful:
- A training plan to go from walking to running (perfect for beginners!)
- Running workouts you can do in 15 minutes
- Creative workouts that combine strength training and running
- Training plans for treadmill running workouts
- Running workouts to improve endurance: long, slow runs & HIIT running workouts
Home workouts without equipment
- Abs, total body, foam rolling: 6 different bodyweight workouts
- Beginner’s HIIT workout & more: 5 quick workouts you can do on vacation
- Booty & abs: 21 minute HIIT workout
- Total body: Tabata workout in just 15-minutes
- Wake up workout: 7-minute energizer workout to start you day
- Abs: 4 core-focused workouts to do at home
- Yoga, recovery, abs…: 7 indoor workouts you can do during winter
- Low impact workout (no jumping) for people with bad knees
- Extreme 10-minute full body workout challenge
Not enough ideas? Get a personalized 12-week home training plan in the Results app – starting with just 2 workouts per week!
Set a goal to do at least 2 workouts this week and don’t forget to play some motivational workout music!